David Brabham kicked off his mission to make it four wins in a row, opening his 17th 24 Hours of Le Mans account on Wednesday with the fastest LMP2 time in first practice while the debutant Highcroft Racing car finished preliminary qualifying second in class.
After three years partnering Highcroft Racing in the American Le Mans Series it was apt for Brabham to pilot the HPD ARX-01c on its debut Le Mans practice laps and help glean valuable data from the car's first run complete with new Le Mans aero bodywork.
Despite a 45-minute delay due to a minor oil leak, Brabham soon settled into champion mode to clock up the fastest time in LMP2 within a matter of laps and his eventual best time of 3:38.691 remained unbeaten in class.
Reigning ALMS champions, Brabham together with team-mates Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner continued Highcroft's solid first showing on French soil to record the second fastest class time of 3:37.202 in the preliminary two-hour qualifying session.
“The whole purpose of today was to gain valuable set-up information for the race and that's exactly what we achieved,” said Brabham. “Practice was good and when running on full race fuel in qualifying we were only one second off the Strakka car, which was running on qualifying tyres, so I'm happy with that.
“We've learnt a lot and made some good moves to give us solid direction with the car. We've shown that our package is in the ball park, now it's all about getting the car up to race speed for 24 hours, not just a qualifying lap.
“Our focus is completely on the race. That's the way I've handled Le Mans each year and it's proved to be pretty successful.”
It's been a busy first few days for Brabham building up to the first track action. In a long standing tradition of honouring the previous year's race winners, on Tuesday Michelin presented Brabham and his 2009 Team Peugeot team-mates each with a 100cc kart.
“I'm stunned and can't thank Michelin enough for this sensational gift,” said Brabs. “It was unbelievable to win Le Mans last year with such great teammates, who are also good friends, Peugeot, and of course Michelin who I share a long racing history with. My son Sam has just started karting so you can imagine the battles we'll have at home to race it.”